It’s safe to say that 2013 has been a very, very good year for gamers. We’ve seen a veritable smorgasbord of titles released this year, from action-heavy AAA works to masterpieces of storytelling and emotion, from the technical innovation of respected developers and the continued explosion of groundbreaking indie games.
But with so much choice; how on earth can we decide on a game of the year? Well, luckily for us, we don’t have to settle for just one! Us gamers of the Geek Pride family have rubbed our respective chinny chin chins, reflected over the last year’s achievements, and each come up with our own personal Game of the Year. Take a read below for our choices, and see for yourself.
The Last Of Us – Matt Walklate
Have you ever had a dream that was so profound, or realistic that it stuck with you for days after waking? It’s difficult to concisely put into words how The Last of Us affected me, but what I can say is that after finishing it for the first time, that feeling is still with me now; weeks later. I could explain in detail how deeply the characters of Joel and (especially) Ellie affected me, how moved I was with the story, or even how not only is this the first game in my 25+ years of gaming to ever made me cry, that it still has when I replayed it for the second time, too. But all that’s not necessary (or within the word limit).
After playing Bioshock Infinite I was confident there was little that could best its emotionally written, character driven tale, especially considering the deep empathy I found myself experiencing for its father-daughter paradigm (one that TLOU, I was glad to see, explored much deeper). So when I received The Last Of Us I expected nothing more than an equally good game. How very wrong I was. I finished it in a matter of days, and since then I’ve tried to play other games, but now nothing compares; nothing can stop me thinking about it. I’m seriously worried that The Last Of Us has ruined gaming for me. And I don’t even care.
It’s even a winner from a technical standpoint. After all, one of the reasons why the characterisation is so astounding is because the voice acting is second to none, and the facial animations especially do a pitch perfect job of showing, not telling, each character’s inner thoughts and emotions. The mix in gameplay between stealth action, combat and survival works wonderfully, with suspense, desperation and unnerving yet necessary brutality in equal measure.
When I started playing it, I expected I would have to make a choice between The Last Of Us and Bioshock infinite for my Game Of The Year. What I found was not just my favourite game of 2013; I found is my single favourite game of all time. It may not be perfect but to me its characters, their relationships and struggles, and bonds that are forged and broken, all combine to form what is to me, simply the closest to perfection games can get.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds – Hani Fearon
2013 was the year for explosive TV, disappointing cinema and a new chapter in the console war. There were also some great game releases throughout the year, particularly those breathing new life into well-established series. Highlights for me included the rather beautiful Bioshock Infinite and the highly anticipated GTA V.
However, it’s with little surprise that I announce my Game of the Year to be 3DS exclusive The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. As the seventeenth game in the series, A Link Between Worlds is without a doubt one of the most impressive installments of recent years. Set in the same world as the 1991 A Link to the Past, this is the first original title for the 3DS and it’s definitely the first 3D game to actually impress me. With this and the release of Pokémon X and Y a month previous, to me, towards the end of 2013 saw Nintendo finally return back to the game as a contender. Maybe something to take our minds off the Wii U disaster.
A Link Between Worlds has it all. The graphics are quite simply stunning and the 3D element feels rather smooth rather than headache inducing. The dungeon system has had quite the revamp as well, allowing players to tackle the dungeons in their own order through the assistance of Ravio, an odd little character that lodges in Link’s house selling items needed for different locations. One of the game’s new features is Link’s new found ability to transform himself into a 2D drawing, a fitting feature for technology focusing on 3D game play. This brings a whole new element to dungeons and offers plenty of new puzzles, somewhat increasing the difficulty level at the same time. Now when tackling a dungeon, the player needs to think about how to move through walls and floors using Link’s new power, whilst taking care not to drain his power meter. Considering the game is set in the same Hyrule as A Link to the Past, this offers seasoned Zelda fans something extra.
Enough gushing over the game now, I need to give the other writers a shot. If you haven’t given The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds some of your time yet, I urge you to do so. Without a doubt one of the best Zelda games in recent years, it’s definitely one of the top games of 2013.
Tomb Raider – David Rose
The Game of the Year is meant to discuss the absolute best of the best in a given year, and with 2013 as strong a year as it has been for novel, imaginative and thoroughly brilliant games, the race for the best is closer than ever. So why then, have I chosen a game riddled with controversy, a few flaws and the recipient of good but not glowing reviews?
Well, this year I have simply not been as surprised and wowed by a game as much as the reboot of Tomb Raider. Despite some technical problems. the gameplay is a whole lot of fun and it manages to get a good balance of atmosphere, gameplay and story that other games simply didn’t provide. Speaking of the story, it was really well written, scripted and surprisingly enough got it all right with Lara’s characterisation.
As flawed as the game is, those problems for me simply didn’t matter for the time I invested into the game’s universe.
As well, on a more personal level, Tomb Raider was the game I really engaged with most as a critic, and inspired me enough to eventually get me into reviewing. So this is the game to blame for my being here, and is there a more glowing endorsement than that?
Gone Home – Ben Fee
I’m so bored. Bored of fetch quests and first kills, finish lines and Fifas. In a market where the call of duty is almost deafening and such outdated concepts such as story and character are fast being felled to make way for gimmicks and familiarity, how can any of us help but be bored stiff by the almost ubiquitous lack of innovation and originality stinking up the place?
There is, however, a light in this metaphorical darkness – a rise in the indie game scene has lead to a new wave of interesting and capable titles that are giving even some of the triple-A behemoths a run for their precious, precious money. This year, the game that typified this movement best and therefore gains my vote for Game Of The Year is Gone Home.
Gone Home is best approached from a position of unfamiliarity so I won’t take that from you by going into particular detail. In a nutshell, you experience an evening in the life of a young woman recently returned from travelling, arriving at her parents home to find the lights off and the house deserted. The game utilises a first-person perspective to allow the player to explore the building and read the various memos, notes and ephemera left behind by that most fascinating and mysterious creature of all –the human being. What follows is a moving if somewhat voyeuristic trip into the lives of her estranged family, culminating in the most human moment I have ever experienced in a virtual world. Leave your guns, swords and other toys; go home and I promise you will be bored no longer.
Saints Row IV – Leonie Briggs
When your stress levels are high and your days have been un-amusing and full of people whose sense of humour seems to have taken a long walk off of a short peer; one game I found to be very therapeutic was Saints Row IV. The story line, though not really an emotional rollercoaster like Tomb Raider and The Last of Us were, was easy going and all kinds of good fun.
I knew within the first five minutes I would love this game. You start off as the current president of the United States when the world is attacked by aliens. After fighting Overlord Zinyak you wake up as a character in a 50’s tv show no less, where you have to eat pancakes and greet your neighbors. Things do get a tad bit more serious after this though, as you discover that Earth has been destroyed and you are in fact inside Zinyaks version of the Matrix.
What ensues then is just this crazy adventure with awesome superpowers, dubstep and plenty of laughs along the way. Some of the side quests are a little repetitive but for me never get boring because the joy of battle, especially after you upgrade your abilities, setting fire to and exploding enemies is just soooo fulfilling and joyous.
The Penetrator (Dildo bat) has been upgraded to a Tentacle Bat that makes a good ol’ squishy noise as you run around (which is basically the story line of any half decent hentai). There are guns that inflate people, laser/ Star Trek-esque guns and anti-gravity guns all make the game much more fun than your average shooter.
The main selling point, and my final point, for this game for me was the dubstep gun! I just… The concept of it is just beyond words. Whoever game up with this deserves a medal! I currently have mine set to classical! It is so damn satisfying exploding people with rays of classical music!!!
Bonus Points – DLC Of The Year – KRIEGGG!!! – Leonie Briggs
My favourite game of all time is Borderlands and Borderlands 2. Now I know neither of these games came out in 2013 BUT… A certain piece of DLC came out this year that I felt definitely needed a mention. The most epic and schizophrenic piece of DLC EVER!!! The character it introduced us to has to be, hands down, the best character I have ever come across in the game!
He is just full of muscle bound awesome; a buzz axe wielding bad ass! His name is Krieg! NIPPLE SALADS! *cough*
His character is very immersive and requires a lot of throwing yourself head first into fights with a mighty battle roar and without a care for your health bar or impending death. I chose to follow the ‘Mania’ skill set which is very aptly named. When you reach the end of this skill tree you can basically constantly rampage in battle and your rampages are damn strong, every bit of damage you take helps your skill charge up quicker and if you couple this with melee increasing equipment you can take enemies out in one or two hits and certain boss battles become an absolute heart pumping thrill!
All in all, there isn’t much you can say about Krieg unless you have experienced his play style. Its is just so… just so… ghjgahsfdfhgf. That’s the only way you can express the feeling of playing this character. It is just a meat fuelled journey of pure rage and blood.
If you haven’t got this DLC, then I suggest you buy it, if you haven’t got the game, then I suggest you buy the game and then promptly buy the DLC.
So there you have it; the Geek Pride 2013 Game of The Year Showcase! Disagree with our choices? Have another personal favourite? Please get in touch and let us know! After all, for every game on this list there were two or three that missed the top spot by a hair’s breadth, so let us know your thoughts below.
Matt, 24 last time he checked, was born and raised in Manchester. A self-styled geek; when he isn't annoying his other half by fitting in as much gaming time as he possibly can, he can be found getting his fix of Fantasy and Sci-Fi elsewhere by reading, writing, or watching TV Series and Films. He is also a Michelin 3-Starred Chef in his spare time, and can be found experimenting in the kitchen, and generally poisoning his friends with obscure and mysterious dishes.